Covenant Baptist Church of Cleveland confirmed on Wednesday that 20 church members had tested positive for COVID-19.
In addition, Westmore Church of God — which is facing its own coronavirus outbreak as reported in last Sunday's edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner — issued a statement late Wednesday regarding that church's efforts to ward off the spread of the illness.
Covenant's post was published early Wednesday morning on the church’s social media page. The news follows announcements by Westmore Church of God and the Church of God International Offices, who both confirmed that church members and employees were stricken with COVID-19.
Included in the Covenant Baptist number is the church’s pastor.
“At this time there have been fewer than 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our church, and at this time our pastor Gary Higgins is in the hospital recovering from his symptoms,” the post stated. “We do appreciate your prayers and thoughts at this time as our church heals physically.”
The message asked church members not to relay any information on social media, or anywhere else, if they do not have first-hand knowledge regarding the facts of the situation.
Covenant Baptist is located on Calhoun Road S.E. in Cleveland.
On June 25, a post on the church’s social media page indicated that church services had been suspended for the time being.
“We request prayers at this time," the post continued. “We would also like to ask that you refrain from identifying members on this post that have tested positive to be sensitive to their privacy.”
Last Friday, Westmore Church of God Lead Pastor Kelvin Page announced that 12 members of the Westmore family had tested positive for COVID-19.
The announcement was made on the church’s social media page.
In addition, Page said that several additional church members were not feeling well and were awaiting test results, which will not be learned until Monday or thereafter.
Due to spikes in local infection rates, Page said the church would adjust its worship schedule.
As a result, the church’s June 28 church services were available online only. It’s 10 a.m. service this coming Sunday will also be available online.
Westmore’s ministry center will remain closed through July 11. In addition, there will be no Sunday evening or Wednesday night services.
Page said the church will “open up on some level on July 12."
Late Wednesday, Daniel W. Clanton, executive pastor and general counsel for Westmore, issued the following statement in response to an inquiry by the Cleveland Daily Banner.
“On June 24, Westmore Church leadership discovered that a small number of church members had either tested positive for COVID-19 or were displaying symptoms potentially associated with COVID-19,” Clanton said. “On June 26, Westmore leadership made the decision to cancel in-person services at our new Ministry Center in order to mitigate the spread of the virus within our congregation and community.”
Since the announcement on June 26, Clanton said the Westmore Ministry Center has been closed to all meetings and will remain closed until at least July 11.
“During this period, the Ministry Center will undergo a comprehensive medical-grade sanitization. Westmore’s worship services will continue to be offered via livestream through our website and social media accounts,” he said.
Since the grand opening of Westmore’s Ministry Center on May 31, Clanton said, “Westmore leadership has taken extraordinary measures to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 within its facilities, including comprehensive cleaning protocols, hand sanitization, the taking of temperatures and propping open of all doors."
He added, "Since reopening, congregants and attendees have been encouraged to make good choices and to participate in whatever service option they feel most comfortable. Those service options include participating via a traditional sanctuary experience, off-campus participation via livestream or on-campus viewing in a secluded room where social distancing and other COVID-related guidelines have been strictly enforced.”
To date, Clanton said Westmore leadership has been made aware of a number of additional confirmed cases within its congregation, which is reflective of the growing number of cases throughout our community, including within other churches.
“We continue to encourage anyone who believes that they may be symptomatic for COVID-19 to immediately consult with their healthcare provider and to follow all guidance by public health officials,” he said.
Clanton said Westmore leadership is in daily communication to discern how best to continue to worship and fellowship in a safe and responsible manner, care for one another during the crisis, and reach beyond the church walls to care for others in the community.
Also last week, the Church of God International Offices announced it had shut down its three-building campus through the Fourth of July holiday after officials learned an employee had tested positive for COVID-19.
The office complex was closed last Friday and will remain shuttered for two weeks, according to Cameron Fisher, communications coordinator for the denomination's global headquarters.
On Wednesday, the Tennessee Department of Health announced that Bradley County's COVID-19 case count had increased by 30 cases. The day prior, the county's case count had increased by 57 individuals, surpassing the record that on June 23, when the Bradley County Jail confirmed 40 cases of COVID-19 in its facility. In all, 44 cases were reported for Bradley County that day.
In the last two weeks, Bradley County has added more than 260 new cases of coronavirus.
The Tennessee Department of Health only reports clusters of cases that take place at long-term nursing facilities, and not in churches or other related locations.